Last updated: 6 March, 2014

Italy warns Libya instability hampering aid efforts

The West warned Libya on Thursday that political instability is hampering international efforts to provide assistance to the deeply-divided country.

Italy’s new Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini told Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan and a large delegation of foreign ministers in Rome that “international partners are ready to help Libya”, but the “uncontrolled circulation of arms” in the country was creating difficulties.

The talks, attended by US Secretary of State John Kerry, were held to weigh assistance for the transitional authorities in Libya.

A US intelligence assessment in February warned that a power vacuum in Libya, where the government is struggling to counter well-armed militias, was fuelling extremist groups across the region and posed an “acute” terror threat.

Security forces are regularly attacked, especially in the east.

Observers fear rival ex-rebel groups, heavily armed with weapons looted from the arsenals of former dictator Moamer Kadhafi, could yet push Libya into civil war.

In February, France ruled out Western military action against Islamist fighters in southern Libya, a region that the US has identified as a new haven for Al-Qaeda-linked militants.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius described the situation as “very worrying” due to “terrorist acts and risks in the south in particular, and an unstable political situation in general”.

He said the Rome meeting was important because “for the first time it brings together a very large group of countries, including China and Russia”.

His US counterpart Kerry said it demonstrated “our commitment altogether, a huge number of countries” who were drawing up plans to help the Libyan government.

“We recognize that this is really a pivotal moment for Libya as it drafts a post-revolution constitution and moves towards national reconciliation and elections,” Kerry told journalists.

“We also know that Libyans did not risk their lives in the 2011 revolution just to slip backward into thuggery and violence,” he said.

Kerry said the international community would “continue to work closely to fight terrorism and the spread of conventional weapons”, while also helping “build democratic institutions”.

Mogherini stressed the importance of acting now to avoid the high price Libya would pay if international patience runs out.

“There are no shortcuts, the solution for Libyan stability will come from Libya,” she said, adding that “our commitment cannot last for ever”.